In 1898, America had grown weary of the Spanish oppression of the Cuban people. Then came the event that ignited the Spanish-American War. The American battleship USS Main was mysteriously sunk in the waters off of Havana and America declared war.
One of the first to assume a leadership role was Teddy Roosevelt, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy who would be appointed a colonel a short time later as he led his men through the jungle to their fateful triumph at San Juan Hill.
“Remember the Maine!”
Angered by the sinking of the Maine, 20,000 men wanted to join Teddy Roosevelt and his First Regiment U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. And Roosevelt picked a thousand of these men for his all-volunteer force of cowboys and Indians, former soldiers and college boys who would achieve immortality…and a permanent place in the hearts of every American.
Teddy Roosevelt led his legendary “Rough Riders” through a hail of bullets that led to the conquest of San Juan Hill. Though there were over 1500 American casualties, the Rough Riders enabled the American forces to dominate the heights surrounding Santiago, from which they could bombard the city and force the Spaniards into submission. And that’s exactly what happened.
Within weeks, the Spanish realized they were defeated. They surrendered the city, bringing a hasty close to the Spanish-American War. Cuba was liberated and Roosevelt later recalled the charge up San Juan Hill as “the great day of my like.” With his status as a war hero, he won himself the fast track to the White House and the office of President of the United States.